Recently, a good friend asked me an interesting question.
What is worth fighting for?
Then he asked:
What would you fight for till your last breath, with all your strength?
We all have needs. It’s a fact of life. When studying for my nursing licensure test, I was instructed to always focus on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. According to some healthcare professionals, here’s our list of needs, in their order of importance.
But sometimes, we don’t stop to think about what we find most important.
During my orientation at my first nursing job, we had an activity that reinforced this idea in a way I will never forget. We were given 6 slips of paper and told to write what we find most important, whether it be relationships, identifications, or physical goods. For me, my slips included my family, my beliefs, my career, my home, colors and music.
Feel free to write your own top 6 as well. I'll wait.
Then we were instructed to fold the slips and mix them up. After selecting one random slip, our instructor told us that we could no longer have whatever was on that slip. I remember the first slip was my family. It was almost impossible to imagine life without something so important to me. We continued the exercise until we were left with only two slips. This exercise was used to help us understand the frame of mind of older adults moving into a care facility, but I think it’s something worth thinking about in everyday life.
As readers, I think we like to follow characters who always come back fighting. It may be my personal response to respond to loss by crying in the corner, but who wants to read about that? It might be okay in the beginning of the journey, to show what they’re coming back from, but not in the end.
I had a character lose everything in the course of the novel. Her home and only source of safety was burned, her parents killed, her family taken away, and her most trusted confidant betrayed her. As each situation arose, she still had the underlying cause she was fighting for.
But what happened when even that was taken away?
Originally, I had her give up. She stopped fighting because she didn’t know what was worth fighting for. Multiple readers told me they were disappointed with the entire story just because of the ending.
Was it a normal reaction?
Is it what will draw readers in?
We, as humans, naturally fight for what’s important. We like to see the underdog win and overcome his trials. And if that’s what we like to read, then shouldn’t we live that way as well? We control our own stories, just as much as a writer controls the character’s, so maybe it’s time to change the ending.
What do you think?